I have to start this off by saying that I had some reservations about going to see this movie. At the top of that list is that I read the books years ago and loved them. Ender’s Game was, for me, a powerful story and I was very worried that a film adaptation wouldn’t do it justice. But there’s also the pesky little problem of Orson Scott Card being completely bat-shit insane.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, I must insist that you do so before you see the movie. But borrow it. The story of Ender’s Game takes place over a few years, it’s not short. And there are layers upon layers of details that are important to the understanding of the characters and events taking place. Without these details a lot of the inner turmoil of the main characters doesn’t come to light and their decisions and opinions don’t make sense. And you probably shouldn’t read the rest of this post because while I’m not going to outline the plot in explicit detail, there will be spoilers.
Like I said, the book takes place over years, whereas the movie adaptation is forced into what feels like only a few months. So much of the story is removed for timing that the conclusions and relationships that Ender comes to don’t make any logical sense. For example, we only meet Ender’s older brother, Peter, for a single two minute scene in the movie. He chokes Ender on Valentine’s bed and tells Ender he could kill him “right now.” The scene works to set up Ender’s fear of his brother, to set up his distrust of older boys at school, but is hardly significant enough to establish a life long fear of becoming Peter.
The adaptation also cuts out the majority of the battle room sequences and the development of Ender’s unconventional battle tactics. In so doing we skip over the real trauma and isolation that battle school forces on Ender and the thought processes he goes through to defeat those obstacles; and the relationships he builds and friendships he makes.
Ender’s Game could easily have been split into two films to allow the story to keep more of its important details. As it is, in a single film, Ender’s Game is distilled into vignettes of the crucial components of the book that leave a lot to the imagination. I don’t mean to suggest that the movie isn’t good. Not at all, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I don’t know that anyone without an existing knowledge of the story would really understand it and enjoy it on that same level.
Despite my complaints of Orson Scott Card being a complete jackass and the severe truncation of the story to fit its runtime, Digital Domain did an absolutely amazing job. Ender’s Game is visually stunning and beautifully crafted. The imagining of the battle room, the Formics, and post-invasion Earth were perfect. The casting was brilliant and Asa Butterfield was excellent as Ender, despite the shortcomings of the screenplay.
Go see the movie. Card won’t get any money from it. But borrow the book first, because it’s better, just don’t buy it. But if you do, consider giving an equal or greater donation to a good cause to balance out the cost of your paperback.